Four Fast Thoughts on YA and MG Genres #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

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Thank you Raimey!


In 2008, my son was born. My life changed. No longer quite so free to go out wherever I wanted, I happily stayed in with my first born, rocking him, cooing over him, helping him roll over and crawl.

In those quiet moments of holding him in my arms while he slept, I began to read again. On one of my mom’s visits from Colorado, she suggested we get out for a brief afternoon to see an actual movie—Twilight, the new hot young adult craze.

“Twilight?” I asked, because I hadn’t heard of it. I did want to get out though, and I sat in the packed theater gradually drawn into the slow, windy town, the character dynamics and new friendships. I loved every last bit of the movie along with the young audience. When I found out the movie stemmed from a series of books, I bought them all and read them each, word for word.

Twilight was my first introduction into the Young Adult genre. I quickly discovered other amazing authors like Becca Fitzpatrick, Maggie Stiefvater, Alyson Noel and Richelle Mead. Young Adult books seemed so refreshing with younger voices I could easily relate to, nail biting growth as they dealt with major life hurdles and humanely failed, then eventually succeeded to some degree.

Today in 2019, the genre has exploded—divided if you will. We have Young Adult with all sorts of subgenres. We also have Middle Grade, an equally healthy younger genre.

Some folks may ask, “aren’t young voices all young?” Definitely not. There’s a huge difference between books for Middle Grade and books for Young Adult. I had no idea some of the specifics were so detailed so I thought I’d mention a few today.


  1. Age Group.
    • An 8-11-year old perspective verses a 17-year old. The struggles are definitely different in an 8- year old world from a 16, even 13-year old.
    • Middle Grade stories are often told in 1st person perspective.
  2. Book Length.
    • Middle Grade is much shorter with an average word count between 30–50 K words verses YA at 50-75K.
  3. Voice through the world specific to the age.
    • Dialogue should sizzle with what your audience really says and would say or do, which is tricky sometimes when you think of bad language. In the articles I read, definitely think twice about bad language in middle grade books. A good point to consider: Middle Grade audiences often get their books primarily from parents, librarians, and teachers.

A great quote on what age to make your MC from article one in Writer’s Digest: “remember that kids “read up,” which means they want to read about characters who are older than they are.”

  1. Themes important to the different age groups.
    • Middle Grade focus on relationships in their world.
    • YA focus on what’s their world beyond their relationships.
    • Agent Alex Slater with Trident Media Group was quoted in Writer’s Digest as clarifying character and world to the different genres: “a colleague once said something like, ‘MG literature explores how a character finds the world, and YA literature examines how the world finds a character’.”


Any fun tips you’d like to share on YA and MG differences? I’d love to hear it.

About Erika Beebe

Author, dreamer, and a momma to a couple of wonderful kids, I try to live life everyday in hope and inspire others along my way.

Posted on February 20, 2019, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. Afraid I don’t read a lot of either as emotional angst isn’t my thing.

  2. Great post! People are always asking me what middle-grade is.

    I also love that you brought up Twilight. A lot of people like to bash it but I enjoyed the series a lot. I actually (after all the assigned reading in high school and college) had decided that I hated reading. I was living in the Air Force in Okinawa and needed something to do on the long flights home for visits–even the dreaded reading (gasp!). So I picked up Twilight in the base exchange before a trip. My flight sped by and I couldn’t wait to read the next book. I love to celebrate Twilight because it made me realize that I didn’t hate reading, I just needed to find the right books.

  3. Good post, Ericka. Informative and all good points. Writing YA is not easy. I tried once and failed. The 70K-word novel about teens in the Midwest experiencing unwanted premonitions never made it off my hard drive. Writers need to be able to get into the minds of their readers. At the time, I should have known someone of my age had no business going there!

  4. Thanks for the break down. I know there’s a push from some authors to create another subgroup for 18-21 year old protagonists. People want to bring NA (new adult) because there seems to be a gap between “teen” life and completely adult life.

  5. Nicely done, Erika. You explained the distinction clearly. I often get confused between “young adult” and “new adult.” Ha ha. I suppose I should look that up!

  6. Loved your comparison of the 2 genres. Thanks for the overview. I like to read both because there’s so much more action involved in these stories instead of the books written for adults. Having elementary age and high school age helps me keep abreast of the language and life of kids. I haven’t tried to write fiction for the age though. What is the secret to selling to that audience? I guess you target the parents for MG kids?
    JQ Rose

    • I think the target would still be for Middle Grade kiddos but cleaner versions for the parents too. I had a personal account with a family at a library. I was hired to speak on writing but I wanted to talk about the Hunger Games. The parents withdrew their children from the event because of the content in the book.

  7. Great post. I’m working on a middle grade right now. Voice is where I live. 🙂

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  8. I know lots of adults who read YA–I’ve even done it. There are lots of similarities to more mature genres–like language–so it’s easy not to think about it being for youngers. Good summary, Erika.

  9. I like that description of the differences between MG and YA. Very interesting.

  10. I never read the Twilight books. In those years, I was so busy with kids, I honestly don’t remember much of anything outside of constant laundry and food prep. LOL

    I was always a huge Judy Blume fan as a kid and fortunately, her books grew up with me. Summer Sisters was awesome (and had a youthful, angsty vibe) and I’m currently reading In the Unfortunate Event and it has that same flavor.

    My goal is to read at least 50 books this year. I’ve been trying so hard to be a writer that I was missing the reading. It’s now my me time. I am owed years and years of me time. LOL

    • And you deserve every last minute you can snatch up. I loved Judy Blume so much too. I think I read every one. Boxcar children, saddle back club, I read so much in middle
      School 🙂

  11. *In the Unlikely Event is the book…I shouldn’t type while distracted by Rick and Morty

  12. I keep saying I’m going to read MG, and I keep putting it off. I want to see it firsthand, but it’s something I haven’t read since I was a kid, with the exception of HP. YA books are often in first person as well. 🙂

  13. Aahh Twilight. I remember it was the absolute craze when I was in middle school. Everyone was talking about it. That, and Harry Potter to a slightly lesser extent.

  14. Louise Brady, Author

    Lately I’m wondering if I’m heading into New Adult territory rather than YA. I know my word counts are longer than YA, and I never use first person, but I love fast paced dialogue and writing characters who develop as the story goes on. I don’t think I’d ever manage middle grade though. I either tell a story in under 2000 words, or over 100k!

  15. Even though I don’t do much with YA, I still found this interesting. Thanks

  16. Great advice! I think the most important things for anyone wanting to write middle grade or young adult (or new adult) is to read a lot of the genre, and remember the rule about children wanting to read about someone slightly older than them.

    As a freelance editor, I occasionally assess or edit YA books (and I recently edited my first NA title, which was fabulous). The books that fall flat for me are always the ones where there is a disconnect between the age of the protagonist and the tone of the novel e.g. the protagonist is nineteen but the novel reads like it’s written for a twelve-year-old.

  17. That’s a very interesting post! Thanks for sharing

  18. Not sure where my comment went Erika. Thanks for Co-Hosting! Hope you had a great IWSG Day! Blessings✨

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